What does it look like to be an effective leader? As Christians, we want to follow the example of our leader Jesus Christ. So what did his leadership look like, and how can we emulate this?  

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In this episode, Holly and I continue our leadership trait series as we dive into an aspect of leadership that is firmly grounded in our faith. While some of the traits we discuss are widely accepted by the world, this one originates from our ultimate leader.

Jesus, the most impactful leader of all time, flipped the script by demonstrating servant leadership. He did things differently than what people were expecting, and his life and leadership changed the world forever. 

We’ll look at 2 specific ways that Jesus demonstrated servant leadership as well as discuss some practical ways that we can develop an attitude of service in our lives.

Note: this conversation is derived in part from Holly’s reading of the book “Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence For Every Believer” by J. Oswald Sanders.


Flipping the Script on Leadership

Jesus didn’t lead like his followers expected him to. The Jews were expecting the Messiah to be a political leader–someone strong and powerful and who would rule and reign. But Jesus did things differently by showing up in a humble, lowly way. In Mark 10:42-45, Jesus indicates that he did not come to be served, but to serve. 

“In the world’s ears, the term servant spoke everywhere of low prestige, low respect, low honor…When Jesus used the term, however, it was a synonym for greatness.” – J. Oswald Sanders (Spiritual Leadership, pg. 21)

Jesus didn’t just serve others… he often served others who were considered outcasts, unclean, etc. He went against the status quo and the popular opinion of the day by doing this. 

He frequently did things that were unexpected – like washing his disciples’ feet and talking with the woman at the well.

Jesus’ servant leadership was unique in 2 ways: it was marked by self-sacrifice and it was fueled by love.


Servant Leadership is Marked by Self-Sacrifice

The servant leadership that Jesus demonstrated and called his followers to is a type of leadership that includes picking up your cross and dying to yourself. These are not the typical conversations we like to hear when it comes to leadership, but this is what we saw in Jesus’ life, as well as in the lives of many other Biblical leaders.

“Each of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 was called to sacrifice as part of his or her service. Those who lead the church are marked by a willingness to give up personal preferences, to surrender legitimate and natural desires for the sake of God.” – J. Oswald Sanders (Spiritual Leadership, pg. 140)

As Christian leaders, we need to be willing to sacrifice our will and our desires in order to fulfill what God is calling us to do. There are times in the Gospels where we can see that Jesus gave up his personal preference to follow the will of the Father. He says, “not my will, but yours”.

We also can see this example of self-sacrifice in Philippians 2:3-8 when Paul is talking about how Jesus lived. He says that Jesus took the form of a servant.


Servant Leadership is Fueled by Love

Ultimately, we can see that the way Jesus served was fueled by love. When we leave from a place of love for God and love for others as Jesus did, we are able to worry less about achieving a place of perfect wisdom and discernment. Our decisions are spurred by love of God and love for others and led by the Holy Spirit. If you want to learn more about hearing God’s voice, take a listen to episode 117 with Jenny Randle.

Jesus’ example of showing love to others is one we should follow. We see throughout the Gospels that Jesus didn’t just show love to one particular class or group of people… he demonstrated love to ALL people. He was frequently going against the norm in his interactions with those in his community.

He shows us that loving others might make us uncomfortable. But being motivated by love is a key for us as Christian leaders… anytime we are motivated by selfish desires, we are sure to get off track from what God has intended for us as believers.

We need to ask ourselves: What is our motivation as a leader? Are we trying to gain recognition and be seen as important? Or are we being motivated by God’s love and serving others in order to bring glory to Him?


How can we develop an attitude of servant leadership?

  1. Study the life of Jesus 
  2. Seek to use your gifts to serve others 
  3. Give someone permission to call you out and question your motivations
  4. Let go of the outcome
  5. Listen for the Holy Spirit and be willing to change course if you realize you have gotten off track
  6. Practice generosity

Action Step:

After listening to this episode, choose one item from the list above to do this week. Then share in the Purposeful Leadership FB group when you do it!


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